Math = Love: May 2015

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Playing Spot It! In The Classroom

During the last few weeks of the school year, I started to run out of ideas for my weekly brain teaser.  Last summer, my sister had introduced me to the game Spot It!  It's a set of circular cards that come in a metal tin.  The object of the game is simple.  Sort the cards into two piles.  Each player flips over a card.  They have exactly one item in common.  Be the first to spot it.  Win both cards.  Repeat.

As simple as the game sounds, it can be quite tricky when actually playing it!  Often, my sister and I would stare at the cards for ages.  Once we finally found the item in common, we would feel so silly.  Once you see the common item, it seems obvious.

The game is manufactured by Blue Orange Games, and they have a playable demo version on their website.  (They also have an NHL version you can play on their website, too.)  One Thursday, I put the demo version up on the Smart Board for my students to play for the first five or so minutes of class.

Originally, I thought I would ask for two volunteers who wanted to compete against each other.  Each person would go up to the Smart Board and play a round.  The person with the most points would win.  I found that my students in the audience couldn't quite keep their mouths shut, though.  As soon as they spotted the item in common, they wanted to shout it out.


If I was going to do this again as a quick class opener (or time filler), I would break the class into two teams and let the audience participate.

My students really enjoyed this quick class opener.  Of course, they would have played all hour if I hadn't stopped them after five minutes so we could get busy learning some math!

I'm thinking there has to be a way to remake this into a math game.  Any ideas?  

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Advice from Algebra 1 Students

At the end of each school year, I give my students a writing assignment.  They moan.  They groan.  They complain that this is child abuse.  But, I think they actually enjoy it in the end.  Maybe.  I do know they enjoy making fun of my jokes, at least.  If you're looking for particularly interesting commentary from my students, be sure to check out the "Ms. Hagan" comments below.

The assignment: Write a letter to a future student taking Algebra 1.

I instruct students that their advice needs to fill up 3/4 of a page.  This year, we actually had to fold our papers into fourths so students could tell if they had written enough.

Here are the highlights.  I broke the comments into several main categories.


You should always take notes.  If you miss a day, then go to someone who has the notes.  These notes will help you mainly at the end of the year near testing time.  Make sure you grab a composition notebook instead of a spiral notebook.

You should always take notes and if you miss a day go to someone who has the notes you missed. 

You are going to think this is an art class because we had to do so much art stuff in this notebook.  I really hated it BTW.   

This class is very colorful and artistic.  Make sure you keep up with your notes because you're going to need them.

The notebooks.  They aren't fun.  They're boring.  No one likes doing it.

We make notes that take a long time to do, but they help us understand things better.

You need to take all your notes.  They will help in the end.

Do the notebook because it helps out a lot.


Do not talk during class because she will not continue the lesson if you do not be quiet.  By the way, encourage your neighbors to be quiet during class because you'll get in trouble just as much as they do.

She won't keep teaching if you are talking.  She will sit and wait forever.  But Ms. Hagan is a great teacher, and she will make sure you succeed.

Don't sleep in class because teachers get mad at you for being tired.

Stay awake.  Teachers tend to frown upon sleeping in class.  

Do not throw pencils through the hole in the floor by the windows.

Oh, and don't cuss; well at least not loud enough for her to hear you, or you'll get a slip.

You have to pay attention in this class to pass.

Phones, if you want to keep them for the rest of the day, you might just want to keep it up.  She will take it and keep it.

Well, be good and keep your phone put up, and you shouldn't have a problem.

She doesn't like racial jokes, annoying sounds, desk or chair flipping, throwing, tossing, kicking, or shooting, leaving stuff out of place, yelling in class, constantly wearing hats, ignoring her, or making fun of her and saying she is worshiping the devil.  If you do this, you will FAIL.

If you want to be in trouble, then you're in the perfect class.  She doesn't like people talking while she is giving notes.

Don't shoot trash in the trash can cause if you miss you will have to pick up two things in the floor. 

Never wear hats, throw trash, or play on your phone.  She'll take your stuff and keep it forever. 


This is by far my easiest class.  The teacher in this class makes everything simple.  If you're in here, just know that Ms. Hagan is the sweetest and funniest teacher here.  

Words of advice: Be quiet!  She does have a mean side!  

I will miss being in her class.  

When she is in a bad mood, she will send you in the hallway for your death.

Ms. Hagan's class is never fun, so don't count on it.  Math is terribly boring.  Always get answers from the hot girls (if any in class).

Listen to Ms. Hagan.  She is usually right.  She doesn't like me because I'm a genius and very good looking.

This teacher has literally never ate any kind of meat.  She hasn't had the experience of eating a good ol' fashioned deer steak which I really think she is miss out.  She doesn't like to fish, so I really don't think she is American.  

She lets you listen to some really cool tunes, so if you get the chance to listen to music on the smartboard, make her let you listen to the slope intercept form song.

Be nice to Ms. Hagan, and she will be nice to you.

Don't make her mad or she will give you a lot of work.  

Ms. Hagan isn't really a bad teacher.  If you heard certain things, they are wrong.  Never, I mean never, get on her bad side. 

Ms. Hagan can be hard to get along with sometimes, but she's not too bad.  

This note is a waste of time beyond this point.  Ha Ha Ha Ha  I put bacon in Ms. Hagan's coffee.  Don't laugh at her because she's a vegetarian, has a tractor fetish, and has a boyfriend who lives in Australia.

If you don't understand something, ask about it.  She'll try to help you understand.  Sometimes, trust me, it doesn't work!

If you don't understand, ask her for help, and she will try and help you.  But, you have to give respect to get respect.

You have to pass the Algebra 1 EOI, and if you don't, you have to take this class again.  Ms. Hagan does NOT want that to happen.

Ms. Hagan is a nice teacher, and if you pay attention this class will be easy.

Ms. Hagan is a vegetarian and sometimes brings food but won't share. :(

Don't get on her bad side or you will have a bad day.  Trust me.  I know.

In order to pass this class, you have to pay attention to her when she is giving instructions or giving you advice to put in your notes.  But, more than anything, you need to stay on Ms. Hagan's good side.  If you don't, then you will get in trouble a lot.  Even if she doesn't like you, she will stay after school and help you with whatever you need.


Watch your back.  People are untrustable and stupid.

If you're gonna cheat, at least put your name on the paper.  

You get to do origami at the end of the year.  So, hang on.  

Don't use the bathroom on the first floor.

You'll do some fun things sometimes.

Warning: You will have to do this stupid assignment.  

Basically, it's impossible to fail unless you try to or you are lazy like me and just don't care.  Then you will fail pretty easily.  

This class can be easy or hard based on what you decide.  

We bring pie on pi day and get to eat it.

The graphing part of the year is very hard.  No sleeping in class.  It never works out well for you.  

It will be hard, you will fail.  


First, you need to know about her grading scale.  I don't agree with it, but you might.  It starts at A, then to B, then to Not Yet or NY.  When you get an NY (Not Yet) on your paper, you basically failed it, but she'll let you redo it until you get an A or a B.  What gets me is that until the time that you get an A or a B on it, the paper is put in as a 0 (zero).

Your grades have to be an A or B or you won't pass.  I don't know why.  It's dumb.  It really is.

Her grading system is kinda stupid.  You pass or fail.

Ms. Hagan's grading system is actually helpful because she lets you re-do work until you get an A or B.


On Funny Friday, Ms. Hagan usually has a cheesy joke in mind.  Just laugh at it whether it's funny or not.  It will make her laugh.  

You will need to be funny in this class because the only way to get through this class is to make everything a joke.

Pretend to laugh at her jokes because they are horrible.  Just remember that her jokes such.  Just pretend you like her and do the scatter plot.

Algebra 1 wasn't a struggle.  Act like her jokes are funny.  THEY AREN'T.  Listening to them was bad.  

Don't tell any racist black jokes.

Make fun of her jokes.  Maybe one day they will get better.  If you tell jokes make sure that she can't hear you, or they need to be G-rated.

On Fridays, don't say racist jokes.

Oh Lord, her jokes.  They aren't funny.  I think people just laugh at them to make her feel good.  Her jokes aren't good.  Help her out!

BTW Laugh at her jokes even if they aren't funny.  Guys, help her with them.

Ms. Hagan makes wonderful jokes, so be sure to laugh at them.

Oh!  And, Ms. Hagan's jokes aren't that good.  So help her out and laugh anyways.  Sorry Ms. Hagan, gotta put a smile on your face somehow.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Brainteaser: Likes and Dislikes

Back in August, a sixth grade girl who attends my church presented me with a brain teaser that her teacher had shared with her class.  Since Thursdays in my classroom start off with a brain teaser, I decided to share this brain teaser with my students.  It's the type of brain teaser that is EXTREMELY frustrating until you figure it out.  (Though, I guess that's just the definition of a brain teaser...)  I'm the type of mean teacher who doesn't give away the answer.  Students were still asking about this weeks later.  One girl even tweeted me out of frustration!  (I replied with: "I like puzzles, but I don't like games.")

Here are the rules:

* I'm going to tell you about things I like and things I don't like.

* These have nothing to do with my actual personal preferences.  My likes and dislikes are determined by a rule that you must discover.

*  When you think you have figured out the rule, don't tell me (or the class) the rule.  Instead, give me a sentence of something I would like and dislike.  I will tell you if I agree or disagree.  


I like jelly, but I don't like jam.

I like yellow, but I don't like blue.

I like dresses, but I don't like skirts.

I like food, but I don't like eating.

I like pillows, but I don't like cushions.

I like carrots, but I don't like squash.

I like football, but I don't like sports.

I like summer, but I don't like spring.

I like yelling, but I don't like screaming.

I like butter, but I don't like margarine.

I like cookies, but I don't like cake.

I like hoodies, but I don't like sweaters.


Figured it out yet?  When I do this with students, I have to limit it to 5 minutes or so, or they will try to spend ALL hour figuring out the puzzle.  After a few minutes, I insist that we have to go on with the lesson of the day.  But, I will occasionally throw an "I like..but I don't like..." sentence into the lesson just to frustrate them.

The look of joy when one student figures it out and starts contributing their own sentences to the class is priceless.  If students are really struggling to figure out the brain teaser, you can suggest that they record a list of things you like and don't like.  Seeing the words written out should make the rule a bit more obvious.

We actually worked through this activity in one of my grad school classes.  This could be a good introduction to teaching problem solving skills.  Or, it's just a fun way to fill a few leftover minutes at the end of class.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

SBG Quiz Template Planning

Summer is now in full swing which means a few things: random naps, grad school homework, more time to blog and read blogs, starting to plan for next year, and hours spent browsing pinterest for inspiration.

One thing I want to do differently next year is to have a more structured system for SBG quizzes and reassessments.  Last year, my quizzes were sometimes handwritten, sometimes typed by me, sometimes stolen from somewhere on the internet.  There was no cohesiveness, and that bothers me.  So, one of my first projects this summer is to decide how I want my quizzes to look.

Here's my plan for 2015-2016 as of now:

The first quiz for each skill will be typed on a standard template.  This is my current vision of this template.  Definitely a work in progress.

I will prepare additional questions for each skill that will be written on index cards for me to pull out and use at my convenience when students need to retake a quiz.

Students will have to complete some sort of error analysis/reflection sheet on their first quiz in order to be allowed to take the quiz again.

Each quiz attempt will be numbered.

If a student wishes to retake a quiz, they must bring me their original quiz, their error analysis sheet, and a new blank quiz that they have filled out with their name, the skill number, the unit number, the attempt number, and the learning goal.  I rather like the idea of having them write out the learning goal by hand each time they retake the quiz.

All attempts for a quiz and all error analysis sheets will be kept stapled together.  When students have successfully made an A or B on all the skills for the unit, these quiz packets will be assembled into a portfolio of sorts.

This past year, I had students who would throw away their old quizzes and then want to retake them.  If a student hasn't done the work to learn from their mistakes and reflect on them, they shouldn't be retaking a quiz.

I think my favorite idea (and completely unoriginal, btw) is to have students complete a self-assessment before turning in their quiz.  They will mark whether they think they should receive an A, a B, or a Not Yet.
I also want to leave a designated place at the bottom of the quiz for students to leave me a note.  I'm not exactly sure what information students will end up sharing with me, but I want to give each student a chance to reach out to me if they need to.  I also plan on using this notes section to respond to student notes or write a note of my own to them.

Ideas?  Suggestions?  I'm open to all feedback.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sketching Inverses and Finding Conjugates

Today, I want to do two things with this blog post.

#1:  Share a couple of miscellaneous pages that found their way to the end of our Algebra 2 INBs this year.  One page is a second go at reviewing something we studied in Unit 1.  The other is a topic I somehow missed teaching and had to teach at the end of the year.

#2:  Process what I've learned about having students practice graphing calculator strategies.

(Link to download these pages is also at the end of the post, as always!)

We took notes over inverses in Unit 1.  But, I was finding that my students had forgotten how to use their calculators to sketch the inverse.  They needed more practice, so we made a new notebook page.

First, we just wrote out the steps.

Then, we made one of my absolute fave foldables.  A poof booklet!

Reasons I love poof booklets:

* You get 7/8 of a sheet of paper worth of notes, but it only takes up the area of 1/8 of a sheet of paper on your notebook page.

* Kids treat them like they are magic.  Because they are.

* Usually, I make these books hold 6 practice problems.  Normally, my students would complain this was a lot.  They seem to complain a lot less when they are filling out a tiny booklet.

* Once kids make a couple of these, they can usually make them on their own with little prompting.

There were two more practice problems, but I guess I neglected to take a picture of them.  Oops...

Every year, I have a handful of students who do not practice using their graphing calculator.  This drives me insane.  The only way to learn to use the graphing calculator is to actually use the graphing calculator!  Usually, when I am teaching graphing calculator steps, I will put practice problems up on the board for us to work through together.

I will look out from the front of the classroom and see that several students are just sitting instead of following along with the steps.  Once we're multiple steps in, I can't really make the rest of the class wait and force those few students to catch up.  So, they end up getting a free pass that results in them having no clue how to operate the calculator.

I took a different approach with the graphing calc practice this day.  I wrote the steps on the board for my students to copy in their notes.  We worked ONE problem together.  Then, I gave students the other 5 practice problems to write and work in their poof booklets.

Then, I circulated the room and helped students as they worked at their own pace.  Amazingly, every single student was engaged and working.  The students who would typically tune out during these sessions were raising their hands and asking for help.  It really was a beautiful sight.

My takeaways?  I need to give my students more time to just get their hands messy with the calculators.  They need to do more problems on their own instead of just watching me.  This frees me up to help the students who are really struggling.

Having to record the results of their graphing calculator practice in their notebooks was also a key factor in the success of this review activity.

I'm already thinking that I could revamp the poof books / graphing calculator notes to make a single graphing calculator tutorial section in our INBs.  The cover of each poof book could have the graphing calculator steps to perform a task.  Then, illustrated practice problems / sketches of the screen could go on the inside.  For finding maxes/mins and zeroes, I want to have my students sketch the graph on their screen and draw color-coded dots for where they left the cursor for left bound/right bound/guess.  I think this might make the process of choosing these points more visible and less confusing.  Each year, I have a few students who really struggle with where to place the cursor during these steps.

Also - notes on conjugates.  I definitely should have taught this way back when with the complex number section.

Download the files for these two notebook pages here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Q&A: Classroom Supplies and Manipulatives


What are some of your favorite manipulatives to use in math class?


This question reminded me of a post I set out to do a year ago.  Last year, as I was cleaning up my classroom for the summer, I decided I should do a blog post about what manipulatives and supplies I keep in my cabinet in my classroom.  I took all the pictures, but I never actually got around to writing the post.  So, these pictures are now a year old, but they're still a pretty good representation of what you'll find in my cabinets.

So, I present to you: Things in Ms. Hagan's cabinet.  Some are manipulatives.  Others are just random stuff that sometimes comes in useful for my classroom.

Storage Tubs for Each Group of Desks - I used these my first year of teaching.  Things got unorganized way too fast.  Haven't used them since...

Pattern Blocks - I have to admit that I actually haven't ever used these for anything...

Toothpicks - Great for Visual Patterns or Calculating Pi

Coordinate Grid Stamps - I inherited these from the previous math teacher.  My students have used these a handful of times, but the ink seems to bleed through the paper too much to be able to write on both sides of the paper.

Wax Paper - Perfect for making parabolas

Walk-On Number Line - My mom picked this up for me at a yard sale.  I think this would be really cool to use to make a human dot plot.

Spinners - These were also inherited from the previous teacher.  I need to find a way to incorporate these into my statistics class next year!

Ping Pong Balls - I picked these up in the Target Dollar Spot.  I still haven't found a project to use them for.  I know they will come in handy one day, though!

Graphing Calculators - Not sure I need to explain my having these...

Scissors - Necessary for making foldables!

Rulers - I keep a tub of rulers out at all times for my students to use whenever necessary.

Dry Erase Erasers - I promise I've got newer ones since then.  But, they probably look just as bad as these now.

Liquid Glue - I prefer stick glue for foldables, but every once in a while, my kids need liquid glue for a project.  My classroom has become to the go-to place to come for supplies when my students have projects to do for other classes.

Colored Markers - Absolutely necessary for pretty INB pages!  Plus, math is more fun in marker.

Dry Erase Markers

Foam Dice - I also bought tiny foam cubes at Dollar Tree to use to make my own dice.

Colored Pencils



Measuring Tapes

Folding Meter Sticks

Glue Sticks

Rubber Bands - Necessary for Barbie Bungee.  I've done Barbie Bungee for the last two years and still haven't blogged about it.

Playing Cards and other Statistics Supplies - I picked up the mini-roulette wheel at a yard sale.  We used it in statistics last year to model the probability of winning various casino games.  And, don't worry, I threw out the game cards that were meant for a bachelorette party.

Protractors - I don't teach geometry, but I might need these someday...

Popsicle Sticks - These came in handy for making gummy bear launchers in stats.

Barbies and Wrestling Dudes -  It's amazing that after two years of bungee jumping that they are still all alive!  ;)

Dry Erase Sleeves

Dry Erase Boards

Cap Erasers.  My students are always in need of erasers.

Library Pockets - I bought these to make a ZAP game, but I still haven't done that.

Tangrams - I used these as a challenge on the first day of school to demonstrate mindset.  Occasionally, students will still pull them out of the cabinet to play with them.

Foam Washers - I keep thinking that I will use these as a sort of game piece, but it hasn't happened yet.

Paint - This is leftover from painting my classroom.  Occasionally, I do have to touch up the walls.  Last summer, they took the radiators out of our classrooms, so I had to paint behind the radiator.

Miscellaneous Tubs - These have served so many purposes.  Colored Pencil holders.  Sorting tubs.

Tennis Balls - I used these for a linear regression lab.

De-Icer - This has nothing to do with teaching.  It's just a reflection of my fear that my car will ice over while I'm at school, and I won't be able to make it home.  Better safe than sorry.

Sidewalk Chalk - Last year, I let my Algebra 2 students go outside and graph hyperbolas on the sidewalk.

Mini Trash Cans - I thought that I would let students put paper scraps in these as they did cutting at their desk.  But, they soon started throwing random trash in them.  Now, I just make my kids get up and walk to the trash can.  Maybe I'll try these again next year???

Sand Timers - Perfect for games and activities

Though these sand timers are a bit weird.  They look like they would all be three different amounts of time.  But, they all empty in exactly three minutes.

Tools - Because you never know when you might need to fix something.  The most used tool in here would be the tape measure!

Binder Clips :D

Cleaning Supplies


Flip Chutes - These function as function machines in my classroom.  But, I'm sure I could come up with multiple other uses for them!

Clear Picture Frames - I bought these on the recommendation of another blogger.  They use them for station instructions.  But, confession - I've never actually done stations with my students.

Toy Cars - I will come up with a lesson that involves these someday.

COLORED PAPER - best classroom tool ever!

Pocket Charts - I planned on using these to sort names for student groups.  That didn't happen this year, though.

Filetastics - I got excited when I found these at Mardel for 75% off.  But, I only have space to hang one of these in my classroom.  :(

Fly Swatters - Not for actually killing flies.  That would be gross.  We use them for the fly swatter game.

Red/Yellow/Green Cups for Group Work

IQ Circle Puzzles - These were also used on the first day of school for a mindset activity.

Post-It Notes - It is not possible to have too many of these.

Giant rubber bands for closing student interactive notebooks

Traffic light stickers - Honestly, I forgot that I had bought these.  I planned to use them for student self-assessment.  I guess I should make this a goal for next year.

Page flags to mark units in INBs - I'm not sure if these were worth the hassle...

White-Out - I have too many students who insist on writing in pen.  I loan out white-out a lot.

 Popsicle Stick Containers for Each Class - This year I wrote each student's name on a popsicle stick.  I used these to randomly call on students.

Mini-Envelopes - These worked perfectly for keeping unfinished INB projects together.  We also used them to hold our flashcards that I have yet to blog about.

Cute notes - Sometimes I think I was probably meant to be an elementary teacher...

Shower Curtain Coordinate Plane

So, these aren't currently in my classroom.  They're lids that I stole from my kitchen that we used in trig to trace circles.  Math manipulatives don't have to be fancy!

Pipe Cleaners - We used these to discover radians.  I've also used them to demonstrate the vertical line test.

We also made our own clinometers this year in trig.  Paper, paper clips, glue, string, and a washer make a pretty nifty tool for figuring out how tall our school building is.